By Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
ST. LOUIS — The legend of Kyle Kendrick grew Saturday night at the Cardinals’ expense.
A pledge to the Bud Norris Cardinals Killer club, the Philadelphia Phillies pitcher turned out a career performance against an increasingly frustrated club in what ended as a 4-0 masterpiece before a quiet Busch Stadium crowd of 44,476.
Kendrick entered Saturday with one complete game in 103 career starts. He left with an overwhelming effort that allowed the Cardinals only one runner in scoring position and none to third base.
The seven-hit suffocation left the Cardinals winless in three games against the NL East’s last-place entry, 14-17 since April 23 and 0-6 against the NL East since an opening-day win over the Miami Marlins.
The league’s top offense offered little against Kendrick, who came into the game 0-4 for the season but departed with a 5-1 lifetime record in eight appearances — including six starts — against the Cardinals.
“That was Pitching 101. It’s how you control a game,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Kendrick’s effort not only muted the Cardinals’ attack, it drowned out six innings from Jaime Garcia (3-3), who contained the Phillies until a messy sixth inning led to three runs, thanks to a pair of walks and two doubles wedged between David Freese and the third-base line.
Matheny removed a couple teeth from his lineup by resting shortstop Rafael Furcal and catcher Yadier Molina. The leftovers failed to gun down Kendrick’s off-speed assortment that rang up three strikeouts without a walk. The bottom third of the order endured a one-for-12 night with two double plays.
Kendrick needed only 40 pitches to breeze through four innings before benefiting from inning-ending double plays in the fifth and seventh. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel waited until two outs in the ninth to stir his bullpen.
“We didn’t really put anything together,” right fielder Carlos Beltran said. “We got a man on first with two outs. We never got two guys on with nobody out with a chance to put something together. He did a good job.”
“It’s always different watching film, then actually going out there seeing him live,” said first baseman Matt Adams, who produced a fifth-inning single but never advanced. “From the looks of it he had the same stuff he had on film. He was just locating everything tonight.”
Kendrick sports a career 44-34 record, but has often benefited from muscular support. Saturday, the Cardinals never dealt with Kendrick’s ability to move the ball in against lefthanded bats while running it away from rights. He lowered his ERA to 2.63 in six career starts against the Cardinals. Today’s reward for the home club is a match-up against 2010 NL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
The Cardinals appear in an increasingly anxious place. They have lost four of their last six series with the only exceptions being a two-game split against the Chicago Cubs and a three-game sweep of the destitute San Diego Padres. Saturday’s loss left them 6-12 against teams currently with winning records.
Their latest setback featured the bullpen as a high point. Eduardo Sanchez and Saturday call-up Chuckie Fick provided three shutout innings after the Phillies reached Garcia for six hits and two walks in six innings.
Sanchez’ two innings were especially significant because Matheny intends to inject him into higher leverage situations during the upcoming three-city road trip.
“He had a nice night tonight. We’re going to need him in big situations. The second inning was very impressive. He’s got electric stuff, no question,” Matheny said.
The Cardinals managed leadoff hits in three of the first five innings but failed to advance any into scoring position. The Cardinals never brought the tying run on deck after the Phillies took a four-run lead.
“He was tough,” said shortstop Tyler Greene, who managed the Cardinals’ only extra-base hit, a sixth-inning double. “He was hitting the same spots in different ways. He was sinking it, cutting it, mixing in a change-up. He didn’t make many mistakes. … He was throwing good strikes for him.”
Kendrick force-fed the Cardinals 70 strikes among 94 pitches. A crowd that arrived expecting fireworks vented when left fielder Matt Holliday failed to run out a one-out line drive that first baseman Ty Wigginton bobbled in the ninth.
Holliday actually gave the Cardinals their best moment of the night when he went over the left-field wall to rob shortstop Jimmy Rollins of a home run to lead off the game.
Garcia refused the Phillies a runner to third base until the fourth inning, when right fielder Hunter Pence’s leadoff single led to a run on center fielder Shane Victorino’s one-out double to left-center field.
The night fell atop Garcia in the sixth inning.
After walking no one through five innings, Garcia responded to Placido Polanco’s double down the third-base line by walking Pence. An out later he also walked Victorino to bring up left fielder John Mayberry Jr. with bases loaded. Mayberry responded with a bullet over third base to score Polanco and Pence. Second baseman Freddy Galvin provided the night’s final run with a ground ball against a relaxed infield.
“You want to get the leadoff guy after that. After that, it was just guys taking pitches. I felt like threw some pitches close to the strike zone and their approach was to take them right there,” he said. “I’ve got late movement on the ball and it ended up being a ball. I don’t really feel too bad about those balls. They were close pitches. When I need to get a ground ball (Mayberry) was able to put a pretty good swing on the ball.
“You look at the line, it looks worse than what he did,” Matheny said.
Kendrick had shown recent signs of life by constructing consecutive quality starts against the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. He won neither. His seven-inning start against the Nationals was a season best.